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Climate change, ozone depletion and the impact on ultraviolet exposure of human skin.

Physics in medicine and biology

metabolism, Vitamin D, Ultraviolet Rays, Time Factors, Sunlight, Sunburn, epidemiology, Skin Neoplasms, radiation effects, Skin, Seasons, Risk, Ozone, Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced, Humans, Great Britain, Atmosphere

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      For 30 years there has been concern that anthropogenic damage to the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer will lead to an increase of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface, with a consequent adverse impact on human health, especially to the skin. More recently, there has been an increased awareness of the interactions between ozone depletion and climate change (global warming), which could also impact on human exposure to terrestrial UV. The most serious effect of changing UV exposure of human skin is the potential rise in incidence of skin cancers. Risk estimates of this disease associated with ozone depletion suggest that an additional peak incidence of 5000 cases of skin cancer per year in the UK would occur around the mid-part of this century. Climate change, which is predicted to lead to an increased frequency of extreme temperature events and high summer temperatures, will become more frequent in the UK. This could impact on human UV exposure by encouraging people to spend more time in the sun. Whilst future social trends remain uncertain, it is likely that over this century behaviour associated with climate change, rather than ozone depletion, will be the largest determinant of sun exposure, and consequent impact on skin cancer, of the UK population.

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